Friday, January 30, 2015

Microsoft reportedly investing big in giving Android users more control

Cyanogen gets some Microsoft love?

For years CyanogenMod has been a popular alternative among Android users, and now Microsoft is reportedly investing big in the startup.

Microsoft is investing $70 million (about £46m, AU$90m) in Cyanogen, which would leave it a minority shareholder, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Oculus denies Facebook-Samsung partnership rumour

'Total nonsense'

Last year a report out of Korea claimed that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg had visited the country to meet with Samsung. The subject of that meeting, it claimed, was virtual reality.

Oculus has already helped Samsung build the Gear VR, but last October's report from The Korea Times speculated that Samsung would further be tasked with building "VR-embedded devices from Facebook's designs, software drawing and content".

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Samsung is probably ditching Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 for the Galaxy S6

Qualcomm confirms its new Snapdragon 810 won't be in a 'large customer's flagship device'

It sounds like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S6 won't use a Snapdragon processor in the US, as previous Galaxy devices have all done. Dominant mobile chipmaker Qualcomm revealed today that its new flagship Snapdragon 810 processor "will not be in the upcoming design cycle of a large customer's flagship device" and it therefore cut revenue expectations for the second half of the year in its most recent financial report. Qualcomm did not say which of its partners was electing to drop the processor, but earlier reports have said that Samsung was not planning to use the 810 in its upcoming Galaxy S6 due to thermal issues, and there just aren't that many phone makers large enough to require a company like Qualcomm to change its revenue guidance. LG has already announced that its G Flex 2 will use the 810, and HTC is expected to put the processor in its upcoming M9 flagship, due to be announced next month.

Microsoft Office is out on Android tablets today

Office for iOS hits 80 million downloads

Microsoft's Android tablet versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are no longer in preview mode; you'll be able to download them today. As with the iOS apps launched last year, Office is essentially free to use on Android for most consumers, though certain premium features and business functionality require an Office 365 subscription. The preview program covered more than 3,000 variants of 500 separate Android devices, and native support for Intel processors is coming later in the year.

Microsoft says the iPhone and iPad versions of Office have been downloaded more than 80 million times worldwide. Although the free release on competing platforms represents a major change in strategy, it's all part of CEO Satya Nadella's plan to put the company's services on the most popular devices — whether they run a Microsoft OS or not. Office 2016 is coming for Windows later this year, however, and a new touch-friendly version will be included with Windows 10 for phones and small tablets.

Your VB Kid

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Xbox One catching up to PS4, but the numbers don’t add up


For the uninitiated, the eighth generation console war has followed roughly the same path since it began — Sony’s PlayStation 4 capitalizes not only on its technically superior hardware and content exclusives, but from Microsoft’s constant stream of public relation fumbles leading up to and following the Xbox One launch. Since launch, the PS4 was soundly leading the Xbox One in both hype and sales — Sony’s console was even more fun to try to break. During its quarterly earnings statement today, Microsoft revealed that it sold 6.6 million Xbox consoles during the holiday quarter — around 2.5 million more consoles than PS4s Sony moved during the same period. Did Microsoft turn the Xbox One around?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Twitter finally delivers group messaging and video

What we needed

At its heart, Twitter seems to be suffering from some sort of existential crisis, struggling to work out if it's a social network, a messaging service or a publishing platform. Today sees the company launch two features that, if we're honest, only really tick the second and third items on that list.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Acer's latest Chromebooks are built to survive the classroom


Chromebooks are a big deal for schools because they're cheap and relatively easy to lock down. However, not just any Chromebook will do -- ideally, you want a laptop that can survive bumps and drops from less-than-careful students. Acer thinks it can handle that unforgiving audience, so it's launching two educational Chromebooks built to take pupil-inflicted punishment, the 15.6-inch C910 (shown up top) and 11.6-inch C740 (below). Both have shells that withstand up to 132 pounds of force, corners that handle falls from up to 18 inches high, and reinforced hinges that won't easily snap. The C740 even gets specially extended hinges to make sure it won't flop or twist in high-stress situations, such as a kid's backpack.

They're respectable systems beyond those tougher exteriors, for that matter. Both Chromebooks have the option of Intel Broadwell-based Celeron or Core i3 processors, and either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. You're mostly paying based on the screen and storage. The C740 starts things off with a 1,366 x 768 display, a 16GB solid-state drive and a 9-hour battery at $260. Pay a little more for the $279 C910 and you'll get little more than the larger LCD and a slightly shorter 8-hour runtime, but there are more sophisticated variants with 1080p displays and 32GB of space. Both Chrome OS models will be available in February, or in time for schools starting their early planning for the next school year. And before you ask, the C720 isn't going away -- Acer tells us that the C740 is an education-specific model rather than a replacement.

Source : Engadget

Your VB Kid

Plex finally brings media relief to US Playstation 4 owners

Could be cool

The media streaming options for Sony's Playstation 4 have always been its weak point, especially compared to the formidable PS3 living room experience. Now, there's some good news for US users: Plex is finally available on both PS4 and PS3 in North and South America, after it rolled out in Europe and Asia last month. The popular media server lets you put all your media in one hub on your PS4, regardless of where you actually store it. You can then organize it by criteria like poster art, plot summary, album cover and share it to other devices and platforms. Sony said that it'll only stream video at first, with music and photo sharing arriving shortly. There is one drawback: you'll need a Plex Pass, a service that costs $4.99 -- more than half the price of Netflix.

Source: Engadget

YourVB Kid

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is worried about AI turning against us

He's $10 million scared

Lauded genius Stephen Hawking isn't the only high-profile figure who's worried about Siri taking control.

Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO and Hyperloop architect Elon Musk is so worried about AI turning against its human masters that he just donated $10 million (about £6.58m, AU$12.17m) to an organization called the Future of Life Institute (FLI).

The FLI's aim is to make sure artificial intelligence remains "beneficial to humanity," through a global research program that will examine the ways AI is being used around the world.

A call for help

Musk's donation was spurred by an open letter from the FLI that featured signatures from AI scientists.

"Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important," Musk said. "I agree with them, so I'm today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity."

The FLI will allow researchers to apply for grants from the program starting January 19.

  • This is what we want to see at GDC 2015

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Potentially game-changing Android tablet lets you make calls in Windows 8.1

Dual-OS device could be a big deal if verified

One of the myriad of smaller Chinese companies that produce tablets and smartphones, Onda, has unveiled a tablet that not only runs both Windows 8.1 and Android (KitKat) but can also apparently make phone calls in Windows (and probably in Android too).

The V9191 3G Air is currently on preorder at Geekbuying for $257 (about £170, AU$ 280) with delivery expected towards the end of this month.

Like many Windows tablets, it's powered by an Intel Bay Trail-T Z3736F quad core processor with 2GB of DDR3L memory and 64GB of storage.

Retina appeal

It also features a 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 pixel display, just like Apple's Retina Display iPad tablets. Other notable features include a pair of cameras, a microSD card reader, Bluetooth 4.0, a big 6200mAh battery, HDMI, microUSB and microHDMI ports.

We reached out to both Geekbuying and Onda. The former confirmed that phone calls could be made under Windows 8.1 rather than just Android – which would be the first reported instance of that happening.

That shouldn't come as a surprise though given how the minimum hardware requirements for Windows (desktop) and Windows (mobile) are practically identical.

Expect many more of these hybrids to come to the market with Windows 10's launch looming.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Samsung's newly hired design chief hails from Jony Ive's old studio

Should be interesting

Samsung may be looking for a design overhaul soon, and it picked someone from the outside to lend a hand. Lee Don-tae is the Korean tech giant's new global design chief, who will report to Samsung Electronics President Yoon Boo-keun and work from the company's Design Management Centre. Lee Don-tae is a former CEO of Tangerine, a London-based design studio founded by none other than Apple's aesthetic guru Jony Ive. His work includes an S-shaped redesign of the British Airways business class cabin, a layout that created enough space for the seats to lie flat.

The company shuffled its design staff last May too, following the lukewarm reviews of the "defiantly plastic" GS5. A Samsung official told Korea JoongAng Daily that Lee would lead the overall design of products, including smartphones. While it sounds like the projects will include more than just handsets, we'll have to wait and see just how involved Lee gets in the company's massive family of gadgets. If you've been hoping for a different look to the Galaxy S line, though, you may soon get your wish.

Source: Engadget

Your VB Kid

Monday, January 12, 2015

Apple: if only every tech firm could be this unsuccessful

Apple isn't stuffed, but that doesn't mean it's completely safe

Is Apple's software falling behind its hardware?

There's a bit of an internet storm brewing around Apple this week, based partly on a blog post by developer Marco Arment: writing on He suggested that Apple's software quality control isn't brilliant.

He's right. I can point angrily at Mail, which keeps breaking; Safari on iPad, which keeps crashing; Continuity in Yosemite, which keeps ringing long after I've answered and ended a call; iMessage, which keeps going weird; or iTunes Match and AirPlay, both of which only seem to work when I don't want to listen to music.

The thing is, though, I could have said pretty much the same thing about previous OS Xes, iOSes, iWork apps, Logic Pro, iPhoto… the list of Apple annoyances goes back a long way.

Does Apple ship stuff that contradicts the "it just works" line? Oh yeah.

Has it been doing it for years? Oh yeah.

Is it getting worse, and if it is, does it matter?

Let's have a look.

Android 5.0 Lollipop adoption rate is so low it didn’t appear on Google’s distribution

So sad

Android 5.0 Lollipop has been out for almost two months now, but as you should know by this point, that doesn't mean very many people are actually using it. Actually, according to Google’s new platform distribution numbers, even fewer people than expected are on the latest and greatest Mountain View has to offer. Lollipop didn’t even hit the 0.1% cutoff required to be represented in the data.

Once per month, Google aggregates data about the various Android devices that check into the Play Store. This data is turned into some nifty tables and graphs for the developer dashboard, which app makers can use to better target devices. The largest chunk of active Android devices this time is represented by Jelly Bean (all three versions collectively) at 46%, followed closely by KitKat at 39.1%. The oldest version still showing up in the data is Android 2.2 Froyo (0.4%), which is positively ancient by technology standards — it was released in May 2010.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Google TV is dead, Android TV has risen

Google TV officially retired as Android TV rises from its ashes

RIP, but the writing was on the wall

Long live Android TV

We can't say we're surprised...

Google has announced that support for Google TV has ended, a move we knew was coming with Android TV rapidly gathering pace.

Google TV never had much success, and Google has now announced in a Google+ post that the service is officially being laid to rest.

The post was aimed at developers, but officially confirmed something we had assumed for a while. In its place, Android TV has arrived. Sony and Philips are both to use the system as a smart TV interface in their 2015 models, giving it a much better chance at a bright future than its predecessor.

It was time

Google TV failed to catch on, with the official Nexus Player given limited distribution and only a few third-party boxes using the system ever made. A common criticism was that the platform was slow and cumbersome to operate.

"With this shift, we encourage you to transition your living room development efforts to Android TV apps and Cast-enabled apps," the Android TV team wrote in the Google+ entry, telling us all we need to know about the company's smart TV direction.

Source: TechRadar

VB Kid

BBM is coming to Android Wear

About as far from a BlackBerry as you can get

Android Wear is getting fruity

Android Wear is only as useful as the apps that support it, and it's about to have a new high profile addition in the form of BBM.

The new Android Wear features include the ability to read messages from your wrist and see who they're from, flip between messages and accept invites from other BBM users. You can also pick from a list of predefined messages to send a response from your wrist or use your voice to dictate a custom response.

So you can keep your phone in your pocket and read or even respond to messages when your hands are full. It's not been confirmed exactly when BBM for Android Wear will be arriving, but in an official blog post BlackBerry claims it's coming soon.

Oh and if you're a BBM user but not sold on Android Wear then don't worry, because apparently this is just the company's first step in supporting cross-platform wearable technology. BBM on the Apple Watch anyone?

Source: TechRadar

VB Kid

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

This Mad Catz $300 morphing game controller is absolutely insane

What on earth could make a game controller worth $300? Is it made of gold? No, the LYNX 9 from Mad Catz isn’t coated in precious metals, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. This whacky controller is designed to transform into numerous configurations to fit your gaming needs. Whether you’re playing on a smartphone, tablet, or PC, this screwball gamepad morphs to fit the platform. It’s not a bad idea, but is it worth spending five times the cost of a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller for this monstrosity?


The core chassis itself is actually three pieces, and it splits apart to fit whatever you choose to mount. It comes with a smartphone clip and tablet frame for mobile gaming, and even folds down into a compact size for travel. In addition, it has a built-in mic and a detachable thumb board for easy communication. Don’t want any of that? For PC gamers, it also morphs into a plain old controller in roughly the same configuration as a DualShock 4.

Virtual reality comes to the desktop, thanks to HP and Zspace

The VR is coming

The first time I donned a pair of special glasses and picked up a wired stylus to enter a virtual reality was over 25 years ago. It required extremely expensive hardware, and only allowed for a simple, low-resolution, experience of machining a part on a virtual lathe. But we were all sure that practical applications were just around the corner. It has taken much longer than most of us predicted, but with its new Zvr display, HP is bringing to market a practical and useful VR tool for educators, scientists, and other professionals that need to have accurate, simulated interactions with computer-generated models.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Sony apologises for PSN hack with PlayStation freebies

PS Plus extension and a nice little discount

It's likely that any PlayStation gamer reading this will be aware of the PlayStation Network outage that took place over Christmas, due to a DDoS attack from "hacker group" Lizard Squad.

The service is now running again smoothly, but to apologise for the downtime Sony has promised a couple of freebies to PlayStation users, as outlined in a blog post.

Anyone who had an active PlayStation Plus subscription or free trial on December 25 will have their subscription extended by five days, to be added at a later date. If a customer's account expires before it's applied then they'll be offered a five-day PlayStation Plus membership.

On top of that, Sony will be giving all PSN members a 10% discount token to be used on any PlayStation Store purchase, which will appear some time later this month. It's worth highlighting that this will be for the total cart purchase, so you'd be wise to grab yourself a few goodies.

Xbox Live suffered a similar outage on Christmas day. Lizard Squad have used the attacks as a marketing scheme for a piece of software called LizardStresser, which lets anybody carry out their own DDoS attacks.

Source: TechRadar

Your VB Kid

Is Samsung ditching the Galaxy Alpha already?

Looking to keep costs down

RIP for the Alpha dog?

It's not a great start to 2015 for fans of the premium-looking, metal-banded Galaxy Alpha: rumours from inside the industry suggest Samsung is abandoning production of the handset in order to focus on devices that are a touch more affordable.

The Galaxy Alpha was a refreshing departure for Samsung in the way that it prioritised attractive looks over spec-list box ticking, though on the back of apparently so-so sales it may have been a departure too far, according to ET News.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Welcome To 2015!

Welcome to the new year!

Get ready for everything new

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The Chief Technomancer
VB Kid